Thoughts on software and life.

Monday June 11

Ajax on the iPhone

I've never seen so many developers not getting it in the wake of a major technological announcement. I nearly wet my pants with excitement when I heard that the iPhone's Safari browser will indeed run full powered JavaScript (aka Ajax) web applications. I expected the reaction across the web to be a resounding cheer, and so I was stunned to find so many people writing this off as a disappointment.

Hello, people! This is HUGE! I mean, when I first heard about the iPhone's browser I assumed it would be hobbled somehow, with limited JavaScript and probably no XMLHttpRequest. The demos on Apple's site always showed the New York Times, which is a static website if ever there was one. To hear that Apple is positioning the iPhone browser not just as a web reader, but as a platform for applications, means that the mobile web can finally start to come to life.

I know, many people had been hoping for an iPhone SDK which would give access to Cocoa and Core Animation and all those other OS X goodies, but let's be realistic. This is 2007, and we've all seen how advanced web applications can be. Amazingly, some web applications have managed to be successful even without the use of Core Animation! Besides, Safari is more than capable of doing some amazingly slick things - I've been using 3.0 this afternoon and it is blazing. Look at how smooth the animations are here. Safari even supports SVG now, in addition to the canvas tag, so while you may not have pixel shaders, you should still be able to do visually impressive things. At the end of the day, none of that really matters - what matters most are the applications that connect you with people and information, and web applications do that better than native applications.

I predict that years from now, people will look back and realize what fools they were to underestimate the importance of this announcement. iPhone users, and users of other phones that copy Apple, will have access to a world of extremely useful mobile content like never before. It will dwarf whatever could have been possible with an "iPhone SDK".

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